June 12-13 Pauper Weekend in Reivew

So we are two weeks into the Modern Horizons 2 season and things are…well, they certainly are something. To be blunt I don’t think the format is in a very good place right now (but my guess is you don’t need me to tell you that) but I want to take some time to dive a little deeper.

So let’s get some bookkeeping out of the way with regards to the June 12 and June 13 Challenges. Affinity was a dominant force, taking down seven Top 8 slots and both wins. Despite all the fear of Chatterstorm going into the season it is not the best deck in practice, although it might be the deck doing the best job of defining the format.

Currently the best three decks in the format comprise over 61% of the Top 32 metagame. Affinity is 28.91% of the Top 32 meta, with various Dimir decks clocking in at 19.52% and Storm variants at 13.29%. While it is only two weeks into the season these numbers still should be a cause of concern, especially since these are known actors in the metagame. By comparison the three most popular decks at the end of Strixhaven season had 17.24% of the Top 32 metagame (Dimir variants), 10.04% (Burn), and 8.71% (Flicker Tron). That’s just about 36%. Now this is not an apples-to-apples comparison as two weeks is not eight weeks, but the disparity in these numbers is stark.

How did we get here? Storm is clearly the best level zero deck – the deck might not have the numbers that others do but if you are not running an answer to Storm, whether it be hate cards or winning before they do, you are going to lose. This is where the other two decks come into the fold. Affinity is not only able to run efficient hate for Storm in Echoing Truth or Krark-Clan Shaman, but it can also run an over-the-top kill in Atog-Fling to go along with its new plan of free 4/4 beatdown. It is a robust deck that can get ahead and stay there. Enter Dimir with its good counter magic and free removal as a way to check Affinity as well as the possibility of targeted Atog-Fling hate in Hydroblast. Add to this the opportunity to run good anti-Storm cards – Echoing Decay, Echoing Truth, and to a lesser extent Duress.

So that helps to explain why these are the big three, but why are they so resilient? Against Storm ones needs specific hate drawn at the correct moment to have a shot. Dimir is easier as it is simply a good deck with a well established metagame pressence. But Affinity…Affinity was a sleeping giant.

Affinity has long been a deck, like Dredge in other formats, held back by potent sideboard hate. One reason Affinity never experienced a sustained run of success is that it was trivially easy to disrupt its mana thanks to Gorilla Shaman (and to a lesser extent Ancient Grudge). Running Affinity was a massive risk because there was a non-zero chance you were not going to be able to play the game. The indestructible lands changed everything. This is not to say that the only way to curtail Affinity is to target its lands but the lands were the risk in the risk-reward dichotomy. Now there’s no real risk, only reward. No deck can match Affinity for consistency and speed and thanks to Atog and Fling, removal can only do so much.

So what’s the solution? I don’t have one at the moment. I think that once Chatterstorm gets banned (which it probably will at some point), something from Affinity has to go with it to prevent it from increasing its dominant run. I know some folks have floated a potential Atog ban and that might be good enough.

But time will tell. For now, if you do not have a plan against Affinity and either Dimir or Storm, you might as well not bother playing.

And that’s never a good sign.

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Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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